Wednesday, December 25, 2013

2013 Ice Storm - Toronto Edition

Last Friday and Saturday we received a lot of freezing rain here in Toronto. A lot!

Needless to say many trees were adversely affected. Weighed down mightily, branches, both large and small, snapped. Everywhere.

Streets were blocked, power lines knocked down. People were left without electricity. No lights and, even worse, no heat.

To make matters worse temperatures were slated to drop from a low of a few degrees below zero the first night of the blackout to as low as -15C a couple of nights later.

I have to say, I was lucky. My power never went out. I guess those are the benefits of living in a condo at Yonge and Eglinton. I believe we have back up power here. As well, the area usually is pretty well serviced.

My parents and sister as well as many other friends weren't so lucky. My mother said the power went out at their place at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. She was luckier than a lot of others though. By 9:30 p.m. the same day their power was restored. Three days later my sister and many of my friends are still without power.

One odd thing was even though my parents had power their backyard neighbours didn't. I was over at their place on Monday night when someone rang the doorbell. My mother answered and a lady was standing there. She said she was the neighbour who shared the backyard fence with us. She wanted to know if her family could plug an extension cord from their house through the backyard to our outdoor outlet so they could turn on the furnace to heat their home. Of course we said, yes.

As well as dealing with no light and no heat people had to deal with damage to their vehicles and property. Not only did tree limbs fall on power lines and streets blocking access, they fell on cars and homes.

My parents next door neighbour's maple tree lost a number of limbs some of which fell on my parents' small, front deck. I had to go over on Sunday morning to saw the large branches into smaller, more manageable pieces so I could move them.

Making deliveries for work on Monday was pretty crazy. First of all the vans were coated in a thick layer of ice. It took an extraordinary effort to clean the windows well enough so I'd be able to drive. We literally had to use a chisel to get through the thick ice. It was especially hard on the side windows which couldn't be reached by the front window defoggers.

As well the mirrors were a bit of a chore. I did the passenger side mirror. I believe I did a pretty good job. Sid did the driver side mirror. Let's just say there are dozens of small scratches on it now.

Traffic was awful. Numerous traffic lights were out. Drivers had to treat them as all way stops. That made getting around on the roads extra slow.

It was pretty crazy looking at all the fallen tree limbs scattered about the city too. An incredible sight in some cases. Just incredible.

Anyway, power might not be restored to some areas for anywhere up to a week (including our workplace). Unfortunately, not a very good way to spend the Christmas holidays at all.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dinner with the Pink Flamingos

Our Cornerstone Sports Night team, the Pink Flamingos, had our team dinner at Rob and Kathleen's place at the beginning of the month. It was a potluck dinner. Since I can't cook I brought a caramel cake and four bottles of pop.

I was the first to arrive. Early. I came straight after my boarding home visit. Rob and Kathleen were still getting their food ready. Rob made ribs and Kathleen was working on a variety of appetizers like Jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese.

Not everyone could make it. Ricky was out of town. I believe some people were sick like Freda and possibly Andrew. Either that or he was busy. Winnie made it out though. So did Philip, Derek, Josh and Kim.

Dinner was good. There was a lot of food. We had to take the leftovers home.

After dinner Philip brought out his board game, Ticket to Ride. I believe it's an award-winning game developed in Germany. The idea is to gain points by either building sections of train routes and completing longer routes between various cities on the game board from the route cards you pick up.

I believe up to five people can play at once. The game board gets pretty crowded at that point. You can build train routes by picking up coloured cards (up to two) on your turn. Route sections on the board are colour coded. To build a section you have to collect the number of coloured cards between the two cities. It's pretty simple. The problem is if someone else builds on the section you want. Then you could be in trouble.

Anyway, we played two games. I won both. At first everyone was employing the same strategy - trying to building the long sections of track connecting to distant cities.à

In the second game I tried something different. I didn't concentrate on connecting the long sections of track between two distant cities. Instead I noticed that a lot of points were awarded for building long sections of track (15 points for building a six section track as opposed for 1, 2 and 4 points for building one, two and three section tracks).

So I concentrated on building random six section tracks around the game board. Though I didn't get many points for connecting distant cities, I built up such an immense lead that no one else could catch me. And I finished all my trains before people could connect their distant cities. So they actually lost points for the distant cities they didn't connect.

I have to admit that strategy probably strayed from the main idea of the game, but it was a sure way of winning. Oh well.

Anyway, it was nice for us to get together to get to know one another a bit better over the holiday season. Our team is pretty strong overall. I think we'll do well this season.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Where Have I Been?

I have to apologize. It's been awhile since I've last posted. My computer died and I'm in the process of deciding what to do next.

Upon the advice of a friend I tried to repair the hard drive using the supplied Apple Install disk, but it failed. I also took it to his house so he could look at it, but he couldn't do anything either.

Next I made an appointment at the Genius Bar at the Fairview Mall Apple Store. They were very nice there. The girl who helped me tried running a few diagnostic tests and other things, but didn't get very far. She couldn't even figure out exactly what was wrong. She believes my hard drive is dead, but she can't be sure if that's the only problem.

The thing is my computer is a mid-2007 model and she said Apple doesn't repair computers that old. You have to go to one of the authorized repair stores on their website. I found one located close to me. They charge $65 for diagnostics. Hard drives start at $200. But, of course, who knows if there are any other problems?

So my options are to repair or replace. Until then I have to blog from various friends' computers. Sorry, no photos/images for now.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Black Friday

Black Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving, is known for massive discounts at cash registers of many stores south of the border. Though, in recent times, it's become popular here in Canada too.

Now, normally, I'd be off on Fridays, but I actually had to work Black Friday this year. Truth be told, I wasn't really very interested in going out to shop even if I was free.

Still, after church on Sunday, I walked over to the Eaton Centre to check out the action. Even though it's called "Black Friday" sales normally continue over a number of days (similar to Boxing Day/Week here).

To my surprise it wasn't overly crowded at the mall. I was happy about that. I checked out my usual favorites - Club Monaco, Zara and Banana Republic. As well I ventured into the GAP, Aldo and Mexx which had $15 ties and belts. If I actually wore ties or belts I would have considered picking up a couple.

Just before heading home I walked into Old Navy. I have to say I rarely shop there. Even though the prices are reasonable, I just don't think the style or quality is that great. Still, when I saw the $7 Men's Performance Fleece Logo Pullovers, I caved. Normally $25, they were too good a deal to pass up. I bought two for myself then went back and grabbed another one for my dad.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Past Three Weeks at Work

The past three weeks at work have been pretty crazy. Our boss, Sid, was away on vacation in China. He hired a new fellow, Peter, from our church to take over his everyday duties. Unfortunately he didn't get very much training beforehand.

There are a lot of things to do when you have a small business. You're in charge of everything from finances, to supplies, to making sure all the equipment is working properly.

One of the first problems Peter had to deal with was one of the machines that wraps the hot towels wasn't working well. Again. This machine has been acting up for a long time. Sid gave Peter a quick go through on how to fix it, but he couldn't seem to figure it out on his own.

Another problem we had was the late delivery of materials to make the wet towels. I believe we got the shipment before Sid left, but we were still playing catch up while he was away.

To make matters worse, the machine that makes the rolled wet towels stopped working. I guess something broke and it needed a new part. Peter called someone to make it and the machine sat idle for four days putting us even further behind.

Then there was the problem with the hot towels not being cleaned well enough. I'm not sure why that was. Whatever the case there was a mountainous pile of towels deemed unclean enough to use by Mrs. Li sitting in the middle of the floor.

Peter went to buy some replacements, but even they weren't enough. Near the end of Sid's vacation I was having to skip customers because I didn't have enough towels to deliver. If I could, I would go back the following day but, of course, that totally screwed up my schedule.

With all these extra distractions Peter was having a tough time keeping on top of things in the office. We were late with deliveries so people were constantly calling and complaining. He was getting really stressed out.

To top things off Peter was supposed to pay the company's GST at month end (end of November). But he couldn't get the numbers to come out correctly and there was no one to call for help. Sid was out of the country and Joseph (Sid's son), who had come in to lend a hand a few times, had gone away somewhere at the end of the month too. So they might have to pay a penalty for submitting it late.

Anyway, Sid is back now. I don't know if things are completely under control yet. But I think they're slowly returning to normal. Hopefully.